One-on-One with Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne

Published 05/12 2014 08:30AM

Updated 05/13 2014 06:07PM

    If it has been a while since you've last visited Owensboro, Kentucky, you may not recognize it the next time you return.
    For half-a-decade now, the city has been undergoing its biggest change in close to 100 years, and every day there's still more to do.
    This morning in our one-on-one special report, Owensboro mayor, Ron Payne talks about the city's change and development and what we can expect from the city for years to come.
    For Owensboro, Kentucky, it's "out with the old and in with the new."
    For 5 years, Mayor Ron Payne has overseen Owensboro's most dramatic change in a century.
"We are totally reinventing the city of owensboro," says Payne. "Many people have come down here and said, 'well this just insn't owensboro.' my response to them, 'yes it is. It's the new owensboro."
    And with the city's improvement taking place at 'lightspeed,' mayor payne says he's still in a hurry to put owensboro on the international map.
"Starting in June, we are going to build a brand new, three story international bluegrass center over here on the site of the old state office building ...the new Holiday Inn and Suites west of the convention center will be completed later on this year. We have a pier that we call it that goes out into the river that we're working on that's going to be a tremendous attraction for this city...West of here right next to the Holiday Inn will be a new condominium complex, a gated community where people are now going to be able to live in downtown."
    At the time 'reinventing' Owensboro got underway in 2009, the United States was in the middle of a major economic slump. But to keep the city moving forward, Mayor Payne took an unpopular step and doubled the insurance tax from 4% to 8%
"I told the people of this community that was the perfect time to do it because prices were low, a lot of contractors were out of work."
    The tax increase is what Mayor Payne calls an 'original investment,' and with that 100 million dollar investment, Mayor Payne says the private sector acknowledged Owensboro's hard work and was convinced to climb on board.
"We put in $100 million, the private sector has already exceeded that by the amount of money they've put in renovating our downtown, building these hotels, building that texas gas office building. We had to show them and we did and they followed up. I can't say enough about our local entrepeneurs because everything you see being built down here is driven by local people."
    With so many plans and so much development, Mayor Payne says the city's biggest challenges will be due in large part to its success.
    But new challenges also mean new spending.
    So when asked if taxes would need to be raised again, mayor payne said, don't count on it.
"I don't see any need to raise taxes again as long as i'm mayor because i'll tell you what's going to help us finance all of the needs we're going to have in this's the growth. We're growing jobs."
    And as the city grows, so does Mayor Payne's optimism.
"Let me tell you something, I've been around the world, and I do mean it, the world. This is the best place in the world to live, right here. It's exciting, it's wonderful, the people are great, and the sun shines most of the time."
    Join Greg Parker next week as he goes One-on-One with Evansville mayor, Lloyd Winneke.
    Also, head over to Eyewitness News' Facebook page and tell us what town you would like Greg to visit for his last One-on-One special report.

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